20 Ideas to Connect to Love and Wisdom in Modern Technological Age
Technology brings this interesting change: we are more and less connected at the same time. We are more connected because we have instant access to our friends, family, and others at anytime, and anywhere. We can call, text, message, post, MarcoPolo, video chat, email, Zoom, and in many other ways connect with anyone in the world! I’ve had a four-way call with two daughters in Colombia, one in Tanzania, mom in Utah, and me in California, all just chatting away as if we were in the same room together. Amazing!
However, while we keep in contact with others, that isn’t the same as connecting with them. The brief messages are news bites about what each others are doing. We get pictures of dinner plates to see the delicious food they are eating. Moreover, we are continually bombarded with advertising, “click bait” from unscrupulous people, or others trying to sell “the most amazing” stuff. The constant barrage of messages can actually prevent us from getting to know others. An important part of knowing and connecting with one another is actually being there, in the same room, looking in their eyes, and hearing a story from the heart.
For this reason, I’m concerned about the trend to have doctors practice more “remote medicine.” In my own video chats with patients, I can diagnose illness, send tests to the lab, and send prescriptions to the pharmacy. But the element of human connection diminishes. I have patients all over the country, but I don’t know them all. Video is better than a phone call, but still isn’t the same as being in the same room with a patient. It’s a sacred space. A doctor in our society in many ways is more privileged than a pastor. I have had many people tell me things they wouldn’t divulge to clergy. Some of them become friends because we share a heart, or experience. Not that we have the same experience, but that we come to know each other through sharing our experiences.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to get to know others. I am constantly amazed at the resilience of the people I meet. I am so privileged to be in a position to come to know people at their very core, their hearts. People are AWESOME! I am most especially honored to have elderly patients who share with me the wisdom of their own lives. Wisdom only comes from experience. When we are young, we have rules to follow so we can walk in wisdom’s paths until we gain it for ourselves. To illustrate, if I may, I will indulge in sharing a few stories.
An 80-year-old patient, who was doing well, said:
“When I was 10, my mother was locked in an insane asylum at Camarillo State Hospital. My father was a raging alcoholic. I had a younger brother and sister. I didn’t know what to do. I felt discouraged and lost, so I prayed and asked God what I should do. The immediate answer came clearly to me, ‘I gave you a brain so you could figure it out.’ I did figure it out. I got a job with a neighbor and earned enough money to feed my little brother and sister, and I have been able to ‘figure it out’ Ever since. I never forgot that.”
That is emotional resilience, or the ability to “bounce back” from loss and change. The wisdom that came to a 10-year-old is utterly amazing! I don’t think I could have done that at that age.
One 55-year-old, confined to a nursing home with multiple health problems, told me:
“I died twice last time I was in the hospital. One of those times I found myself watching the doctors and nurses work on my body. I knew I was dead, but I didn’t care. I was so free — free from pain for the first time I can remember. What’s more, I felt love — a palpable feeling of love that I can’t explain. It was a wonderful, peaceful feeling. Then, the nurse put the paddles on my chest and shocked me and I was back in pain… I’m not afraid to die.”
An elderly man with dementia can’t remember the names of his own children, but has clear and vivid memories of being in France in World War II. He said he was in Le Havre, at the port, so I went on to Google and found a picture of Le Havre from that time. I showed him the black-and-white picture of a devastated port city and he began telling stories of each place, as he broke into tears several times. “It looked just like that — everything was a mess. The day I arrived, barely seventeen, the battle was over, and we were sent in to clean up. I was assigned to pull the bodies out of the water. I went down to the docks, and pulled six bodies out. It has haunted me ever since.”
One patient was in an automobile accident where she lost her husband and dog. She misses her dog, and always tears-up when she talks about her. She has been in recovery for over a year, lying in bed with multiple fractures, in pain all the time, eventually losing a leg due to infection. She said, “I’m not going to feel sorry for myself, I just need to do more physical therapy so I can get out and get back to living. I have a daughter and grandchildren, and I want to be a part of their lives.”
A young man whose wife is debilitated because of a stroke comes into the facility every day to be with her, feed her, and take care of her. He is a driver for a medical transport company and when he is off, he might take her to the beach where they can watch the sun set. He made a special ramp so he could help her in and out of the car. He is always cheerful and helpful to the staff.
Everyone has a story, and those stories are so filled with grace! It seems we have lost the quest for wisdom. We no longer value experience and resilience; instead, we value earning potential. To turn that around we might stop marketing our businesses and love one another. I think the best way to love others is to know their stories, to discover their hearts, and the resilience of their lives. It’s the hard things that teach us and help us grow. But we don’t have to go through everything ourselves; we can learn from the experiences of others.
I have never died, and I didn’t have to take care of siblings from a young age, nor have I lived in a war, but by listening to their stories I can share their feelings. Then, I can be a little more resilient in my own difficult circumstances, be less afraid of life, and have more wisdom.
Take the time to get to know those around you of any age, color, gender, or creed. You don’t know what’s inside the heart until they share their experience. Ask questions of your own family and friends. Share their hardships and pain. Ask them about the hard times in their life. Talk to the stranger on the bus or plane next to you. Ask your Uber driver where they came from, and why. Find their story, and you will come to love them because you share a heart, and you will be a better person for it.
20 Questions For Connection
When my children were little, we used to play a game called “20 questions” where one person would think of any noun and the others could only ask 20 yes-or-no questions to find out what it was. You can do such a thing to find out the heart of anyone. Consider the following 20 open-ended questions to start a conversation to get to know someone.
20 questions that lead to the heart:
- Name all the places you’ve lived in your life? Which is your favorite?
- If you could go anywhere, where would you go?
- If you could do anything, what would it be?
- What do you enjoy doing the most?
- What is your greatest talent?
- What would you die for?
- What do you live for?
- What is one thing about yourself you have never told anyone?
- What do you do when you don’t have to do anything?
- What is the worst pain you experienced?
- What is your favorite music? Artist?
- What is your biggest weakness?
- Who is your greatest hero?
- Where were you born?
- What hobby or avocation would you do that you don’t currently do?
- If you went to college now, what would you study?
- What would be the title of your autobiography?
- What was the hardest thing in your life?
- What is your biggest regret in life?
- What is your favorite animal?
You may think of other questions, or, when your friend starts answering any of these, it will usually lead to others, especially, “WHY?” That’s the best follow-up question because it leads straight to the heart. Practice makes perfect! Take this list to your family members, friends and neighbors and just go down the list. You’ll find out how wonderful it is to really get to know another person, and in the process you may find wisdom and love.